Sometimes I think we, in this country, get better than we deserve. For example, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
We seem to be blessed with two good men running for president; smart, apparently honorable men whom I truly believe have the best interests of this country at heart. But anti-intellectualism and arrogant ignorance, far too often mean-spirited, petty and sometimes downright malicious, seem to be exploding in our political discourse, turning this election into a dark circus.
Yeah, I know dark circuses aren't anything new. But the current level of corruption of the political process surely comes close to unprecedented. To watch these two worthy candidates having little choice but to pander to our prejudices and our worst instincts in the campaign for the presidency is disheartening at best and terrifying at worst. In this age of enlightenment, how did we get here?
(And as if things weren't already bad enough, the Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign contributions removing strictures on political campaign contributions, effectively turned government over to the lobbyists.)
All of us struggle with prejudices. They can be seductive. They can lure us into irrationality and make us believe things that have no basis in fact because we want to believe so desperately. In other words, as far as the presidential election is concerned, instead of blaming the candidates for the excesses, we need to look in the mirror.
Thus, I believe that it is imperative for us to understand that if this republic isn't to go into decline we must at least try to accept informed responsibility, reject self-indulgence, rise above our baser instincts and understand we are all in this together.
Our forefathers in this brave new world took the worthy, if unrealized, ideas of earlier civilizations, most notably ancient Greece, and expanded upon and nurtured them. And history shows we have at least given lip service to these ideals. We claim to respect human rights and individual liberties. In practice, of course, history also shows there are always some shameful lapses along the way. We also must understand that no man is an island, that our survival demands community, and that we make sacrifices for the good of the whole. I do believe we each are our brother's keeper.
As to the terrifying part of the dumbing-down of our society, the basis for that comes in the fact that right alongside our apparently growing reverence for ignorance is the commensurate and astounding explosion in science and technology. Witness the recent announcement that the so-called "God particle," the missing link in the Big Bang theory, has finally been discovered. Just think how much these advances increase the potential, not just for the extremists we commonly fear in other cultures, but in our own, to wreak havoc. Complacency is a luxury we cannot afford.
I'm fond of saying that my goal in life is to become a compassionate rationalist. I know I'm nowhere close and that I'll never completely achieve it. But I promise you, I will try as long as my brain continues to function and there is breath in my body.
Libby Davis worked for the Rockdale Citizen for 20 years as publisher before retiring in 1997. She is also an award winning columnist and editorial writer and occasional contributor to Georgia Trend magazine.